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How to Best Keep Your Agency on Budget (without an RFP)

By Jon MacDonald
3 minute read | Last Updated: May 4, 2016

A doctor would not prescribe without a proper exam and diagnosis, don’t you want your ecommerce partner to do the same?

Thank goodness for the Internet.

Without it, we wouldn’t be able to watch cats all day, investigate celebrity gossip, and diagnose medical conditions all without leaving the comfort of our chair. We can forgo the experts and trust the anonymous (and definitely true) resources that are YouTube, Gawker, and WebMD.

Sadly, websites we trust as gospel are not.

Whereas doctors are masters of medical health and professors are masters of their field, sites like WebMD sell ads and are fronts for making money off the illness of its customers (without providing an actual remedy, just speculation).

Ask a doctor what they think of WebMD and you’ll likely get a large eye roll and a sigh from that deep part of their being where their soul resides. Daily, they fight a battle in which their diagnosis and expertise are questioned by well-intentioned, but often misinformed patients who have already diagnosed their sore knee as a torn ACL because their symptoms match the ailment on the Internet.

Despite the patient’s newfound expertise, doctors prefer to rely on their own expertise and examination to form a diagnosis.

Often, and surprisingly, a doctor’s diagnosis and a patient’s Internet diagnosis are at odds. Fortunately, common sense usually prevails with the patient listening to their doctor and proceeding with the prescribed therapy.

This same scenario plays out in the relationship between brands and the agencies they hire to create and improve their ecommerce sites.

Engage an agency focused on the end goals and allow the agency’s expertise to guide the features that achieve those goals Click To Tweet

In this relationship, the brand is the expert on their brand story and the agency is the expert on how to make an ecommerce site deliver.

What happens, though, is that many brands have already self-diagnosed and prescribed their own remedy based on Internet searches and looking at competitor sites.

With this list of features, brands send out an RFP to agencies and regrettably, many agencies happily accept the brand’s money to deploy features without any diagnosis of the true cause of the ecommerce site’s illness or analysis of the feature set to see if it will actually cure what is hurting sales.

If you are familiar with this scenario, you’re also familiar with massive project budget overruns, either in the form of an agency overestimating fees to cover for the unknowns because they did not conduct a proper diagnosis, or due to a series of change orders to produce additional features that are needed after the initial set is complete.

To avoid a budget overrun, determine the site's goals and allow experts to diagnose and implement the appropriate remedy Click To Tweet

Just because this is how the agency and brand relationship has always been, doesn’t mean it can’t change. There is a remedy.

Engage an agency or advisory focused on the end goals and allow the agency’s expertise, IP, and collective knowledge to guide the objectives (and recommend features) that achieve those goals.

Avoiding a budget overrun can be as simple as determining the goals and letting the experts diagnose, prescribe, and implement the appropriate remedy.

Avoiding a budget overrun can be as simple as determining the goals and letting the experts diagnose, prescribe, and implement the appropriate remedy. Click To Tweet

Spending on features first, without a goal and an expert’s diagnosis of what’s really causing the site’s ills, is always a prescription for budget overruns.

About the author: Jon MacDonald is founder and President of The Good, a conversion rate optimization firm that has achieved results for some of the largest online brands including Adobe, Nike, Xerox, Verizon, Intel and more. Jon regularly contributes content on conversion optimization to publications like Entrepreneur and Inc. He knows how to get visitors to take action.